William Cookworthy bigraphy, stories - Chemists

William Cookworthy : biography

12 April 1705 - 17 October 1780

William Cookworthy (12 April 1705 – 17 October 1780) was an English Quaker minister, a successful pharmacist and an innovator in several fields of technology.

Parents, birth, siblings and early life

He was born of Quaker parents in Kingsbridge, Devon on 12 April 1705.Penderill-Church John (1972). William Cookworthy 1705 - 1780, p. 12. D.Bradford Barton Ltd,Truro Cornwall. His father, also called William, was a weaver and his mother was Edith, the daughter of John and Margaret Debell of St Martin-by-Looe in east Cornwall: they had married in 1704. Their children were:

  • William - 1705
  • Sarah - 1706
  • Jacob - 1709
  • Susannah - 1711
  • Mary - 1714
  • Philip - 1716
  • Benjamin - 1717

William was a bright child but his education was halted when his father died on 22 October 1718 and the family's investment in the South Sea Company failed in the autumn of 1720.

William had been offered an apprenticeship, at no cost, by the Bevan Brothers, two Quaker apothecaries, with a successful business in London.Silvanus and Timothy Bevan As the family had no spare money, William walked to London to take up the offer and, eventually, successfully completed the apprenticeship.



He discovered china clay in Cornwall and devised a way of making porcelain, which previously was imported from China.

Lighthouse engineering

He was also an associate of John Smeaton, who lodged at his house when he was engaged in building the third Eddystone Lighthouse (1756–1759). Cookworthy helped Smeaton with the development of hydraulic lime, which was essential to the successful building of the lighthouse.

Dietary advice

He advised naval officers that scurvey might be prevented and treated by supplying crews with fresh fruit and vegetables, and in their absence, sauerkraut (rich in vitamin c).


In 1735, he married Sarah Berry, a Quaker from Wellington in Somerset.They had five daughters:

  • Lydia - 1736
  • Sarah - 1738
  • Mary - 1740
  • Elizabeth & Susannah (twins) - 1743


The Bevans set him up in business in Plymouth, where he was extremely successful. He brought his brothers Philip and Benjamin into the partnership. He bought out the Bevans' interest in 1745.


It is also known that prior to his departure, Captain James Cook and Captain John Jervis, together with the naturalists Dr Solander and Sir Joseph Banks, were guests of Cookworthy.

Porcelain factory

In 1768 he founded a works at Plymouth for the production of Plymouth Porcelain. (accessed 8 March 2008)


In 1767 Cookworthy, in conjunction with Rev Thomas Hartley, translated Emanuel Swedenborg's theological works, The Doctrine of Life, Treatise on Influx, and Heaven and Hell, from Latin into English.

His initial reaction to Swedenborg's works was one of disgust, but with persistence, he was convinced of their merits and was a persuasive advocate. Hartley and Cookworthy later visited Swedenborg at his lodgings in Clerkenwell shortly before Swedenborg's death.

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine